A team of University of Wisconsin—Madison engineers has created the world’s fastest stretchable, wearable integrated circuits.

Unlike other stretchable transmission lines, whose widths can approach 640 micrometers (or .64 millimeters), the researchers’ new stretchable integrated circuits are just 25 micrometers (or .025 millimeters) thick — an effective size for epidermal electronic systems.

Fabricated in interlocking segments like a 3D puzzle, the new ICs could be used in wearable electronics that adhere to the skin like temporary tattoos. Because the circuits increase wireless speed, the systems support remote health care monitoring, without the use of cables and cords.

Inspired by twisted-pair telephone cables, the structure contains two ultra-tiny intertwining power transmission lines in repeating S-curves.

The serpentine shape — formed in two layers with the segmented metal blocks — gives the transmission lines the ability to stretch without affecting their performance.

The structure also helps shield the lines from outside interference and, at the same time, confine the electromagnetic waves flowing through them, almost completely eliminating current loss.

Currently, the researchers’ stretchable integrated circuits can operate at radio frequency levels up to 40 gigahertz.

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